Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Safe spaces and speech on campus

Yesterday Carleton Students for Liberty set up a "free speech wall" - large sheets of paper on which people could write anything they'd like. The idea is to get people thinking about speech and encourage (ironically, given what's happened) a safe space for all points of view to be expressed.

Carleton Free Speech Wall 1: Photo by Matt Bufton
Last night, a student named Arün Séamus Surinder Smith tore down the wall, a moral imperative, he claims, in order to create safe space on campus. You can read his reasoning here if you'd like, but the idea (I think) is that free speech is antithetical to the existence of safe space on campus because people may write something offensive and because "liberty requires liberation." So he tore down the wall.

It is clear from Mr. Surinder Smith's (I think - apologies to him if I have his surname wrong) note that for him the world is a small, closed and scary place where he and other vulnerable groups are constantly under attack. There is no need to be angry at someone like this. I urge Carleton Students for Liberty to re-erect the wall and encourage those who sympathise with the need to tear it down to participate along with everybody else. I don't think asking CUSA to punish those opposing the wall will be constructive, but inviting engagement might be.

The beautiful thing about liberty is that it does not need violence to accomplish its goals. We don't need to destroy anything to start a conversation, we only need to invite people to join us.

Update: Not only was the paper wall torn down, but the frame of the wall was destroyed and removed. Carleton SFL is a group of students with scarce resources and the free speech wall is funded by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. You can join me and donate to help fund re-erecting the wall - as many times as it takes.

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